Town Column

West Tisbury

By Hermine Hull
Click here to contact Hermine

Posted January 11, 2007

"Watch out. You have a husband with an 11-foot trailer and two pickup trucks." My husband, Mike, spoke those chilling words to me yesterday as we were in the second day of our annual cellar cleaning.

I knew early on that I had married a mostly perfect husband who turned into an alien maniac under certain circumstances to be avoided or carefully supervised. Never leave him alone in the cellar when he is in a throwing-out mood. He comes by it with a genetic predisposition from his father who once took a box of my mother-in-law's pink and gold-banded Lenox dessert plates to the dump (fortunately rescued) as well as snow tires, a perfectly good refrigerator, treasured articles of clothing and furniture owned by other members of the family, and things too numerous to list.

Needless to say, it is always the other spouse's stuff that needs to be gotten rid of. My husband's idea of a clean cellar is totally empty square footage surrounding his trunk full of old Army uniforms too small to fit into (he's been retired from the active reserves for over 20 years) and a collection of engine parts for vehicles long gone (he says they were thrown away and I just never noticed). My art school drawings were thrown away years ago, discounted as "moldy" in an earlier purge. I have never been able to find the set of old iron figures of skaters that I bought at a yard sale to set up on a mirror at Christmastime. Silver ladles, books of poetry, embroidered linen tea towels, and all sorts of other treasures have disappeared over the years, firmly dismissed as "a mostly empty box" by my husband.

I don't understand how a place that is only gone into to do laundry or to bring up a can of cat food can fall into such total disarray. This year I admit that, knowing I planned a total reorganization when I put away the Christmas ornaments, I did leave things lying about. So today after I finish writing my column, I will take down the Christmas tree and neatly pack away the ornaments, reorganizing the unpacked cookie cutters and cans of soup, the rarely used bowls and platters, and begin the new year with a swept and organized space worthy of Martha Stewart. Well, worthy of Mike Hull, I hope.

Shirley Mayhew told me this morning that Milton Mazer died on Sunday evening, Jan. 7. Milton and Virginia were both so well known and loved in West Tisbury. My condolences to the Mazer family.

I am passing along New Year's good wishes from Tom Thatcher, who e-mailed from downtown Saigon.

Also, Betty Franklin sent news of a web site listing ways to reach a live (hopefully) human being when contacting a company. It is Good luck!

Happy birthday to Whit and Diana Manter, whose birthdays on Jan. 3 and 5 generally get overlooked with all the other holiday goings-on.

Muriel Bye wishes to remind voters of the importance of filling in the Annual Street Listing that was recently mailed to all households in town. It needs to be returned by enclosed envelope to the Board of Registrars. This needs to be done to keep your name on the active voters list, so don't forget.

A reminder to everyone to fill out the Space Needs Committee's survey to rate your priorities concerning Town Hall before the deadline of Jan. 12. Forms are available at the Town Hall, the Howes House, library, and on the web site, Also, we decided to postpone our next public forum from Jan. 24 to Feb. 7, still at the Howes House at 7 pm.

It was a surprise to open the Boston Globe's Food section last Wednesday and see a story about Cynthia Riggs, complete with her recipe for baked beans. With Cynthia's permission, I am printing the recipe here. I have never made baked beans before, but this looks fairly easy, so I plan to give it a try. Here is the recipe:

1 pound dried navy beans, rinsed well
1 medium onion
4 ounces salt pork
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground mustard seed or dry mustard

1. Have on hand a soup pot and a bean pot or a 2-quart Dutch oven with lid.

2. Discard any broken beans. In a large bowl, combine the beans and water to cover them by 2 inches. Set aside to soak overnight.

3. Drain the beans, rinse them, and transfer them to the soup pot. Add enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 1 hour.

4. Set the oven at 300 degrees.

5. Drain the beans and transfer them to the bean pot or Dutch oven.

6. Peel and score the onion. Push the onion and salt pork into the beans.

7. In a bowl, combine the molasses, brown sugar, salt, and mustard seed or dry mustard, with enough of the hot bean water to make the mixture pourable, and pour into the beans. Fill the pot with water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven.

8. Cook the beans all afternoon (Cynthia puts them in by noon and lets them cook until she is ready to serve them at dinnertime, 6 or 7 hours later). Check occasionally to make sure they have enough liquid. Add water if necessary, to keep the beans covered. The longer they cook, the darker and more flavorful they become. They can only be ruined if allowed to dry out.

9. During the last hour, remove the lid from the beans and continue cooking to reduce the liquid. Serve with brown bread and franks.

This sounds like a lovely way to warm the house on a winter afternoon, to make it smell wonderful, and to have a meal that cooks by itself. Perfect.